Health Care in Belize
Dec 11, 2012
Considering a move, or even just a visit, to a foreign country is an exiting adventure to plan and map out. Researching popular tourist destinations, off the map secluded areas, restaurants, lodging and transportation are all typical items to check off your list. Depending on your age or whether you have pre-existing health conditions, medical facilities may also be at the top of your list when planning a trip. Where International is here to assist in your planning process and provide facts and dependable information to help ensure your trip or new home can take care of you in the most vulnerable of times.
Dean Barrow has been Prime Minister in Belize since 2008, and was very clear during his campaign that he would address the problem of inadequate health care in many parts of Belize. Those already living in Belize acknowledge that it will take time for their country’s healthcare to reach levels of those in their neighboring countries of Mexico and Guatemala. That being said, minor ailments can be treated quickly and affordably at doctor’s offices and clinics throughout Belize. Individuals who require major surgeries or are suffering from serious illness can also be treated efficiently at one of the private clinics Belize houses.
Belize has a mixed health care system. Public and private medical facilities are both available in addition to health insurance. The majority of doctors working in Belize were trained abroad – the U.S. being the primary area of schooling – as well as a large population of volunteer doctors from Cuba and other countries.
Public Sector Health Care in Belize
The Ministry of Health is the government agency responsible for managing and funding the public health care system, with approximately five percent of the GDP allocated to health care. Unfortunately, Belize’s public health sector does tend to be understaffed. For every 1000 Belizean, there is one physician and 1.3 hospital beds, leaving doctors with limited options when treating patients. On the positive side, the majority of public health services in Belize are quite affordable with a hospital stay costing around USD$7.50 per day. There are also many volunteer doctors assisting in Belize offering their services for free. Residents who can’t afford medical treatment are rarely turned away.
The health care system in Belize is divided into four regions: Central, Western, Northern and Southern. There are eight public hospitals (including a psychiatric centre) and approximately 70 public health facilities throughout the country. The country’s best-known medical facility, the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital located in Belize City, is receiving ongoing improvements in staffing, technology and infrastructure.
Private Sector Health Care in Belize
Only a quarter of Belize’s health professionals work in the private sector, but private spending on health care is usually close to that of public spending. That being said, the equipment, facilities and services are better in the private sector, but because treatment is not subsidized, it tends to cost more for patients. The private sector is unregulated by the government; so all payments are paid directly by the patient or through private insurance. Although anyone is welcome to utilize private treatment facilities, it’s expats and tourists who typically make use of them, as they are the ones able to afford it. Two reputable private medical clinics located in Belize City include Belize Medical Associates and Belize Health Care Partners.
Belize’s private health care sector is divided into nonprofit and for-profit facilities. There is one for-profit, 25-bed hospital in Belize City and a nonprofit, 16-bed hospital just outside of San Ignacio in the Cayo District. Over 50 for-profit clinics and four nonprofit clinics are spread throughout the country - with half of them being situated in Belize City.
Crossover between public and private sectors is very common in Belize. If a private facility is in need of equipment, government facilities are happy to assist. Roughly 14 percent of Belize’s health care staff work in both sectors and will frequently provide private services outside of normal business hours when they work in a public facility during the day.
Dental Care in Belize
Dental care of all kinds falls into the private sector category. The only exception being extractions, which are done in both the private and public sector. There are approximately three dozen dentists working in Belize, providing a variety of care ranging from cleanings to braces to surgery. Prices are very affordable – in comparison to North America – ranging from USD$35 for a filling to upwards of USD$200 for a root canal. Some private insurance plans cover the cost of emergency dental care.
Being prepared for an international move or a vacation should always include a form of medical insurance or at the very least, knowledge of your personal health. It’s always recommended that if you do have a pre existing health issue, to carry a note from your doctor describing your condition and list of medications, including the generic name of pharmaceuticals prescribed. This will help ensure that your vacation or new residency will be filled only with fun in the sun and surf!